Books on archaeological techniques


Renfrew, C & Bahn, P 2004 (4th Edn). Archaeology: Theories, Method and Practice. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

This essential book provides an introduction to the whole range of methods and ideas of archaeological investigation throughout the world. Beginning with the history of archaeological discovery and ending with `Archaeology and the Public', it takes the reader through types of evidence: discovery, survey and excavation; dating and chronology; evidence of social organization; environment; diet; technology, trade and exchange; belief and religion; physical types; explanation of change. The text is interspersed with `box features' providing examples. The perspective is worldwide. The fourth edition contains material on the latest archaeological discoveries and methods as well as discussions of new topics, including gender archaeology and the globalisation of archaeology.

Aerial Photography

Wilson, D.R 2000 (2nd Edn). Air Photo Interpretation for Archaeologists. Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd.

The best introduction and guide to the study and identification of archaeological and historical sites from the air, now reprinted with a 29 page section of colour photographs. Prehistoric barrows, Roman villas, roads and trackways, enclosures, gardens, pits and even pig pens are just some of the things readily observed from above. The book gives advice on how to identify and interpret the various shapes and patterns seen and how to record and archive them.


Griffiths, N, Jenner, A & Wilson, C 1990. Drawing Archaeological Finds – A Handbook. Archetype.

The essentials for setting up a drawing office and the basics of illustration technique are covered in the first half of this book, which includes examples of advice on the representation of artefacts of many types of material. The second half concentrates on the illustration of ceramics and flakes of stone.


Leigh, D, Watkinson, D, Neal, V (Ed.) 1998. First Aid for Finds: Practical Guide for Archaeologists. United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, Archaeology Section 

First Aid For Finds is the practical guide for the safe recovery of archaeological finds. This edition contains clear information on how to care for all types of material that might be recovered from an archaeological excavation.


Orton, C, Tyers, P & Vince, A 1993. Pottery in Archaeology. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology.

Pottery is often the most common find on a site, and can provide the archaeologist with information on many aspects of the past, including chronology, trade, and technology. Scientific developments and statistical techniques have contributed to the analysis of pottery in recent years. Divided into three parts (history and potential; a guide to pottery processing and recording; themes in ceramic studies) this book details the routine tasks of handling pottery, and examines the most recent research into the quantitative study and comparison of ceramic assemblages.

Building recording

Morriss, R. K, 2000. The Archaeology of Buildings. Stroud: Tempus

This is an introduction to building materials and construction techniques as well as the recording and interpretation methods employed by building archaeologists, including surveying and documentary evidence. Architectural innovations from the Roman period onwards are included, such as castles, churches, great barns, townhouses and factories.

Environmental archaeology

Wilkinson, K and Stevens, C, 2003. Environmental Archaeology: Approaches, Techniques and Applications. Tempus.

This book discusses what environmental archaeology is, why it is studied and what contribution it can make to reconstructing the past. Individual chapters focus on how the field of study developed, its key principles, techniques and approaches, and how environmental archaeologists reach and communicate their interpretations of the evidence.


Collis, J 2004. Digging up the past. Sutton Publishing.

This book describes what is involved in excavation, why digs are important and what they seek to achieve. It is very comprehensive, including the organisation of an excavation, recording strategies, the equipment used, what to wear, Health and Safety regulations, on-site and off-site behaviour, and how to approach the excavation of skeletal remains, stone and timber buildings, pits, ditches and banks.


Drewett, P 1999. Field Archaeology: an introduction. Routledge.

This book covers every stage of the excavation process from deciding where to excavate, planning projects, digging and recording to interpreting the evidence and publishing the final report.

Landscape Archaeology

Bowden, M 1999. Unravelling the Landscape: An Inquisitive Approach to Archaeology. Tempus.

This book is aimed at interested people, and based on recent survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, explains the techniques and uses of archaeological survey, to enable the enthusiast to investigate the landscape.


Muir, R 2001. Landscape detective: Discovering a Countryside. Windgather.

This book looks at the different types of evidence that can be used to reconstruct events within the landscape and can help to explain when and why they took place. In a case study of the township of Ripley in particular, he rediscovers a `lost' Roman road, Anglo-Saxon fieldsystems, deserted medieval villages, an abandoned church and lost gardens and enclosures


Jones, S, MacSween, A, Jeffrey, S, Morris, R & Heyworth, M 2001. From the Ground UP: The Publication of Archaeological Projects - a user needs survey.

This report, available online on the Council for British Archaeology's website (see link above) reviews the past literature on the issue of publication; presents the results of a survey into how people use archaeological publications and archives; and makes recommendations for publication in light of the findings of the survey.


Craig, S 2002 (3rd Edn). Archaeological Site Manual. Museum of London.

This is an invaluable guide for standards of recording in archaeological investigations. It is available online on the website for the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre: Click on the London Archaeology tab.


Dorrel, P 1994 (2nd Edn). Photography in Archaeology and Conservation.

This second edition provides a comprehensive, guide to the many uses of photography in archaeology. Accessible to both the amateur and the experienced photographer, with sections on equipment and materials, survey and site photography, architectural photography, the recording of different types of artefacts, registration and storage, the use of ultra-violet and infra-red, and photography for publication. Also covered is the growing use of video and electronic recording systems.


Richards, J & Robinson, D 2000. Digital Archives from Excavation and Fieldwork: A Guide to Good Practice. ADS/Oxbow Books.

A guide that provides advice on preparing and depositing digital archives, which also includes recommendations for archive curators and collecting agencies and copyright considerations. The book contains practical information and guidelines for depositing an archive with the Archaeological Data Service and the principals behind archiving archaeological data in a digital form.


Clark, A 1990. Seeing Beneath the Soil. London: Routledge.

An in-depth but easily readable book about the usage of geophysical survey. With chapters on instrumentation, the physics behind the various methods, such as magnetometry and resistivity, and the tools of the trade are clearly explained with examples and potential pit falls.


Leach, P 1994 (2nd Edn) The Surveying of Archaeological Sites. Archetype Publications.

A very useful guide for beginners and as a reminder for experienced surveyors.  Very clear and concise, with good illustrations.


Renfrew, C & Bahn, P (eds) 2004. Archaeology: The Key Concepts. Routledge.

As it says on the cover `This invaluable resource provides an up-to-date and comprehensive survey of key ideas in archaeology and their impact on archaeological thinking and method.' Just some of the more than fifty entries are: agency, archaeoastronomy, cognitive archaeology, epistemology, feminist archaeology, thinking about the landscape, the theory of social practice, the Three Ages, mental modularity, Darwinian evolution, uniformitarianism. An important source of reference, especially for students of archaeology.


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